Two years ago today, my husband and I walked into a church for the first time for both of us (save for weddings, baptisms, and funerals) in over thirty years. It’s something that still amazes us now; that we did this, especially in light of the fact that, up to this point of time when we made the decision to go, we’d never talked about God, or Jesus, or religion for any length of time at all. Yes, we met via an online Christian dating company (eHarmony), and, yes, there were some spiritual questions that we answered as part of that process, but, it wasn’t something we spent time discussing during our first meeting, or subsequently. We figured we were pretty darn lucky that we’d been matched up and that was about it.
When we moved to Florida many years later, we were in the process of making some changes; many major, others slight. I am coming to understand, in hindsight, that it is the small changes that have the potential to add up to something big. What were some of the smaller changes? We’d decided to be open to meeting new people, especially our neighbors. Neither one of us are the most extroverted of souls, so, this really was a challenge, even if it seemed easy enough to do. This meant saying "Hi" to people, talking to people, not doing the avert eyes thing when someone came towards us out on the street, all of that. We also decided to get involved, somehow.
Not too long after we moved in, our neighbor across the street approached us when we were out walking our dog (and since we’d decided to try and talk to people, we didn’t attempt to avoid her) and, after a few minutes of chit chat, asked us in a very friendly way if we’d found a church yet (she knew that we’d moved from another state). I’m sure we gave her that sort of glassy eyed look of those who really don’t want to be standing on the street discussing something that we’d never even discussed amongst ourselves. Truthfully, I can’t remember what we told her other than it might have been something like “No, we haven’t”. End of statement. She went on to invite us to go to church with her and her husband one Sunday; something I’m sure, again, we politely made noises like “Maybe” and “Thanks” but with zero intention of ever doing so. All in all this was not a major encounter, and, she did not pester us about it, however, in hindsight, it was a small seed that had been planted; her invitation made us think about it. Church. Church. Maybe this would be one way to get involved in the community and, what? Garner clients for our new and fledgling business? Perhaps.
In any event, a few weeks later, a local toss away paper called The Observer (which is delivered to our driveway every Thursday whether we want it or not) ran an advertisement of sorts about a message series one of the local churches was doing. I remember thumbing through this publication one night and seeing the church's ad, “When Christians Get It Wrong”. I quickly went past it, continued to glance at the rest of the paper, then, turned back to it. I read the rest of the ad and realized that the series was centering on all the things that give Christians a bad reputation; you know liked being judgmental, unforgiving, pious, holier than thou, disapproving of divorce, abortion, homosexuals, other religions, you name it. In all honesty, probably the primary reasons why I’d stayed out of church for the past thirty years.
Prior, I’d voluntarily attended a Lutheran church and been baptized and confirmed in it when I was a teenager, and yet, I’d walked away for no real reason. Probably, it just didn’t stick because I was a young girl who had other things on my mind than being a good Christian young lady. Meaning no disrespect to my parents, I had very little support or encouragement from them to either remain involved with the church or to have a relationship with God. So, leaving didn’t seem like a big deal, and it wasn’t .
Unfortunately, there were plenty of people around me in the ensuing years who discouraged me from entering into a relationship with Him; either those who were influential in my life who refused to believe that He existed OR (and actually probably worse) those who did believe, but were so strident about it that it totally turned me off. Looking back, I see now that I wanted to believe, but I just couldn’t bring myself to be in a relationship with a God I thought was hateful, prejudiced, biased, didn’t forgive, and probably didn’t want a relationship with me, anyway, because I’d really screwed up a few things in my life.
Finally it simply became my habit not to think overly much about God; however, I never didn’t believe in Him, if that makes any sense.
To Be Continued!